Finding the best VPN to safeguard your online privacy and security can be challenging. It's a jungle out there, and often you'll come across more duds than wows. I started with a single brand, NordVPN. My multi-year quest to find the best VPNs to recommend simply snowballed from that point.
Choosing the absolute best of the best isn't an easy task. Much depends on extensive tests, years of experience, and intuition. But a significant portion of it also depends on you – the user. Everyone has different needs when it comes to a VPN service.
Top VPN Providers Compared
In general, though, having gone through many VPNs, I have found that a few big names have come up repeatedly. They all rate highly in the essential categories of privacy and anonymity, speed and stability, customer service levels, technical features, and pricing options.
|VPN||Best Price||Free Trial||Devices||Headquarter||Logging||Servers||Get Discount|
|NordVPN||$3.29/mo||30 days||6||Panama||No||5,500+||69% off + Free 3 months|
|Surfshark||$2.49/mo||30 days||Unlimited||Netherlands||No||3,200+||82% off + Free 2 months|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67/mo||30 days||5||British Virgin Island||No||3,000+||Free 3 months|
|CyberGhost||$2.19/mo||45 days||7||Romania||No||6,500+||Free 3 months|
|IPVanish||$3.25/mo||7 days||Unlimited||United States||No||1,100+||65% off|
|TorGuard||$4.99/mo||30 days||12||United States||No||3,000+||-|
|VyprVPN||$2.50/mo||30 days||3||United States||Yes||700+||-|
|P.I.A.||$2.42/mo||30 days||5||United States||No||3,000+||-|
|PureVPN||$3.33/mo||31 days||5||Hong Kong||Yes||2,000+||-|
|AtlasVPN||$2.05/mo||30 days||Unlimited||United States||No||750+||-|
Quick Notes & Tips
- For the best overall excellence in almost all categories, you should look at three VPN providers: NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN.
- Surfshark is extending its promotions and offering 82% discount + 3 months free – click here to order (30 days free trial).
NordVPN is one of the industry mainstays. It's been around since 2012 and has grown enormously in the VPN space. Today it attempts to move past that and branches out towards complete digital security and freedom.
Their strength remains in the core VPN service, which already fields an extensive network of over 5,000 secure servers in 59 countries. These servers run entirely on RAM, ensuring they can't retain your data.
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NordLynx – Impressive Performance
NordVPN is one of the only few VPN providers that took the WireGuard protocol and improved it. The result is NordLynx, a more secure version that retains the excellent speed profile that makes WireGuard so stunning.
With NordVPN, you can expect stable speeds, reliable performance, excellent anonymity, a great media streaming experience, and more. What's more impressive is the reasonable price of just $3.99/mo if you sign up for their 24-month plan.
Aside from the VPN, NordVPN also steps forward with several new products and services. These include NordLayer, a VPN service for small businesses, NordPass to help users manage passwords, and NordLocker, a secure cloud storage service.
Learn more about NordVPN in my in-depth review
NordVPN Pros & Cons
Pros of NordVPN
- Excellent speed and stability
- Independently audited service
- Many good auxiliary services
- User-friendly apps
- RAM-only servers
Cons of NordVPN
- P2P restricted to specific servers
Updates: In February 2022, NordVPN finalized a merger agreement with Surfshark (our #2 Best VPN Pick). According to the announcement, the two VPN services will operate their businesses independently and retain independent branding and systems. They will, however, share technical knowledge.
NordVPN Speed Test
NordVPN Speed Test from Singapore
NordVPN Speed Test from Germany
Surfshark is one of the newer VPN brands that emerged as recently as 2018. That makes it a young upstart that's barely moved past the “green as grass” newbie stage. Yet Surfshark is one brand that's taken us by storm.
At launch, Surfshark offered a handful of servers. Today the number of secure servers leaps to over 3,200 in 100 countries. Like NordVPN, Surfshark runs RAM-only servers, giving them great credibility on user privacy.
Thanks to a combination of those servers, the Wireguard protocol, and well-developed apps, Surfshark speeds are near the top of the charts. Whether you plan to use Surfshark to unblock content, reduce game lag, or stream movies, it'll rise to the challenge like a champ.
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Unlimited Devices – One Account for All Family Members
Remember that Surfshark also offers you an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. You can use it on your phone, tablet, phablet, router, game console, and more. Most competitors limit you to connecting a mere handful of devices.
The entire Surfshark experience is quick and pain-free, from signup to sign-on. Even if you might encounter potential issues, there shouldn't be cause for alarm as their customer support is on the ball and will quickly come to your assistance.
Surfshark now also offers an option called Surfshark One. Opting for Surfshark one extends your basic VPN service. New features will include antivirus, secure search, dark web monitoring, and more.
Even after years of excellent service, Surfshark remains one of the most competitively-priced top-tier VPN brands. Grab a 24-month subscription to Surfshark at just $2.49/mo. For more protection, select the Surfshark One add-on for an extra $1.49/mo.
Learn more about Surfshark in my in-depth review
Pros & Cons of Using Surfshark VPN
Pros of Surfshark
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Excellent value for money
- Fast and stable service
- Security upgrade available
Cons of Surfshark
- Prices have been increasing
Our Surfshark Speed Tests
Surfshark Speed Test from Singapore
Surfshark Speed Test from United States
Surfshark Speed Test from Amsterdam
P2P and Torrenting with Surfshark
ExpressVPN is one of the most trusted and reputable brands in the VPN business and is one of our top choices. Based in the British Virgin Islands, their service is reliable, secure, and stable. Today, ExpressVPN belongs to Kape, the same company that owns CyberGhost.
Ownership aside, its list of capabilities is long and distinguished. ExpressVPN brings you top-notch encryption, access to content on geolocation-limited services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, and support for P2P file sharing.
With ExpressVPN, you can access over 3,000 servers in 94 countries worldwide. The extensive server network offers users from almost any country blazingly fast access points. Those servers also run TrustedServer technology, ExpressVPN's way of saying they run purely on volatile memory.
ExpressVPN also happens to be another that somewhat shuns WireGuard. It instead offers Lightway, an in-house solution that performs just as well. Lightway is a small-footprint protocol that won't strain devices while maintaining top VPN speeds.
The only downside of the ExpressVPN playbook is the price. Among consumer VPNs, ExpressVPN's pricing is one of the highest. Be prepared to pay $6.67 for a “12+3” month subscription package.
Learn more about ExpressVPN in my in-depth review
ExpressVPN Pros & Cons
Pros of ExpressVPN
- Great speed and stability
- Lightway protocol is lightweight
- Maintains a strong reputation
- Excellent apps
- RAM-only servers
Cons of ExpressVPN
- Somewhat expensive
ExpressVPN Speed Tests
ExpressVPN Speed Test from United States
ExpressVPN Speed Test from Singapore
P2P and Torrenting with ExpressVPN
CyberGhost is a VPN brand that's somewhat of an enigma. The brand is over a decade old and fields technical specifications that would make any competitor blush. Still, it meets several core requirements to qualify as a contender on our best VPN list.
The most notable thing you'll get with a CyberGhost subscription is access to its phenomenal server pool. It fields a whopping 7,000 servers in over 90 countries worldwide. That means microscopic access to almost any location for geo-unblocking.
Thankfully the service also works with most key media streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and the BBC iPlayer. Watch the latest movies in 4k, and CyberGhost won't break a sweat. If that appeals to you, grab CyberGhost for only $2.19/mo on their 2-year plan (with a free 2-month extension).
Read our CyberGhost review to find out more.
Pros and Cons of CyberGhost
Pros of CyberGhost
- Outside 14-Eyes jurisdiction
- Massive server network
- Decent speeds and stability
- Good support team
- User-friendly attitude
Cons of CyberGhost
- Some slow servers
IPVanish lost a lot of its shine in the logging fiasco of 2016. Today it is owned by a different company and still offers users a chance to run traffic through over 2,000 servers in 75 locations.
With 256-bit encryption, support for torrenting, and a free SOCKS5 proxy, they also provide users great agility in service access on their network. Geolocation-restricted services are a bit of a touch-and-go, but overall, IPVanish does an okay job.
Prices for IPVanish start from $3.99/mo on its annual plan. IPVanish only accepts PayPal and credit cards for payments.
Learn more in our IPVanish review
Pros & Cons of Using IPVanish
Pros of IPVanish
- TOR Compatible
- Prevents deep packet inspections
- Multi-platform compatible
- Supports WireGuard
- Over 40,000 IP addresses
Cons of IPVanish
- Not cheap
This name may not be overly familiar to many of you, but I was probably as surprised as you are feeling now. At first glance, the TorGuard client will seem a little old-school and not as polished around the edges as our top three on our Best VPN list.
Yet the multiple feature options it has built into the service, plus impressive connection speeds, make this easily one of my top choices. The ability to adjust encryption levels may not seem like a great idea, but it does allow users to balance security and anonymity according to their needs.
TorGuard also offers access to the next-generation WireGuard protocol, which means it is living on the cutting edge of VPN technology. Prices start from as low as $3.88/mo if you sign up for a 3-year plan.
Learn more about TorGuard VPN in this review
TorGuard Pros & Cons
Pros of TorGuard
- Excellent network of global servers
- Stable connection speeds
- Many user-tweakable features
- DPI can bypass China's Great Firewall
- Has WireGuard servers
Cons of TorGuard
- Old-school interface
Based in Switzerland, VyperVPN is a no-fuss, no-muss service provider that has been around for a long time. They also have the distinction of owning (not renting) their servers, which means they have more control over the security of their services.
VyprVPN can be an exciting choice for those concerned about getting around geolocation limiters on services such as Netflix. They have developed their protocol called Chameleon, something they offer to help you hide the fact that you're using a VPN service!
It's easy to use and checks many right boxes at only $5/mo on an annual plan.
Pros and Cons of VyprVPN
Pros of VyprVPN
- Based in Switzerland
- Good at geo-unblocking content
- No third-party-owned servers
- Easy-to-use app
Cons of VyprVPN
- Somewhat expensive
- Slow support system
8. Private Internet Access (PIA)
PrivateInternetAccess (or PIA) has a surprisingly extensive network of servers, more than TorGuard has. This range of choice is excellent news since, in many cases, VPN speed is affected by physical distance from VPN servers.
It also comes with a very out-of-the-way client, which tried to make itself as unobtrusive as possible on your system. Depending on your disposition towards the matter, this small footprint could make it either fantastic – or very infuriating for you. Prices start from $2.03/mo for their 3-year plan (plus, you get an extra three months for free).
Pros and Cons of PIA
Pros of PIA
- Massive server network
- Integrates extras such as adblocker and anti-malware
- SOCKS5 Proxy included
- Great for media streaming
Cons of PIA
- Difficult to get to the settings
- Limited user interface
PureVPN prides itself on its excellence in media streaming and bypassing geolocation blocks. This VPN is great for Netflix and other services of the kind. Interestingly it has also grown past the standard desktop and mobile device support to branch out onto other lesser devices. For example, you can use it with Kodi and even Chromebooks.
It also has a vast server network covering 70+ countries worldwide – one of the most prolific. You can even run P2P apps with excellent encryption and highly secure servers. Prices for PureVPN start from $1.99 per month on a two years plan.
Pros and Cons of PureVPN
Pros of PureVPN
- Ozone-Ready Servers
- Dedicated P2P servers
- Servers optimized for streaming
Cons of PureVPN
Joining our best VPN list at the final spot is another new kid on the block. AtlasVPN is barely out of the gates but has been doing well since its 2019/2020 launch. It kicked off as a free VPN service, but the premium plans make it shine.
One of the most impressive aspects of AtlasVPN is its ability to offer astonishing speeds. Most of that is due to WireGuard, but there's no denying that server and app quality contribute. The performance reminds me of Surfshark in its early days, and that's well worth the money.
Most basic VPN features work, including geo-unblocking, media streaming, and good encryption. Best of all is the price. You can enjoy this excellent service for just $1.99/mo on the 3-year plan.
Pros and Cons of AtlasVPN
Pros of AtlasVPN
- Excellent performance with WireGuard
- Budget-friendly pricing
- Unlimited device connections
- SafeSwap servers
Cons of AtlasVPN
- Slightly buggy app
- US Headquarters
How to Choose the Best VPN Service? 6 Consideration Factors
There are a lot of VPN service providers out there, so when shopping for a service provider, it is essential to know what you want. If you're simply trying to bypass particular censorship curtains, there are cheaper alternatives, such as an HTTP / HTTPS Proxy.
VPNs are the highest form of consumer privacy and anonymity protection. They help keep you safe and secure and ensure your web traffic (such as browsing activities and downloads) is personal.
Since virtual private networks can be used with many purposes in mind, how each service provider targets their customers plays a role in their product design. For example, TorGuard's initial intention was to help protect those constantly on Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing networks.
With that in mind, you should consider specific areas of VPNs when choosing your VPN.
While it is true that the Internet has been around for ages, technology has been evolving rapidly. Today, companies worldwide are beginning to track users digitally to help them through data analysis.
Sometimes, governments are known (or suspected to be) tracking users digitally. If you think that won't happen to you because you live in country X, which is terrific, think again. The most democratic country, the US, for example, has often been caught illegally tracking its citizens.
There are known government surveillance projects in countries as restrictive as China and Russia to neutral Switzerland! People can track you through emails, by registering on websites, and even by simply visiting any location on the web.
Frightening, isn't it?
One of the core functions of a VPN service is to help you maintain anonymity on the Internet. It does this by hiding your IP address, masking your location, encrypting data transmitted between you and sites on the Internet, and ensuring that even your VPN service provider doesn't keep track of when and what you do.
More VPN service providers accept anonymous payment options such as cryptocurrency, cash, or even gift certificates.
Personally, one item I keep an eagle eye out for is the country in which the VPN registers its business. Many VPNs say they do not log user activity, but some countries have mandatory data retention laws.
I prefer to choose a VPN provider that registers in a country where the service provider is not legally obligated to keep records. Examples of locations such as this are Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
Recommended VPN for best anonymity:
- NordVPN – Being based in Panama, this VPN company falls under the country's jurisdiction (which happens to have not much in the way of data retention laws).
- Surfshark – Surfshark accepts all major credit cards for payments (VISA, Master, AMEX, Discover) and offers different anonymous payment options including Bitcoin, GooglePay, and AliPay.
From Encryption protocols to built-in security features of client software, VPNs today offer security on many levels. Of course, the most critical is the security and integrity of the connection it maintains between you and the Internet though.
One more feature that many VPN service providers offer is a kill switch. That feature helps cut all data transmission when your VPN connection drops.
VPNs have also been around long enough that some websites or governments have experience in recognizing VPN activity. The VPNs service providers also know this and have introduced a feature called Stealthing, Ghosting, or VPN Obfuscation (terminology varies, but they generally mean the same thing). Ghosting can help confuse systems that are actively looking for VPN users.
Some VPNs go to great lengths to help their customers hide their identities and have developed a double VPN or multi-hop feature. You connect to one VPN server, and the connection goes through another before hitting the Internet.
Aside from this, you often get additional features like malware scanning, web banner blocking, and more. While all these are handy, never forget the core purpose – keeping your connection secure and anonymous.
Recommended VPN for best security:
- NordVPN – NordVPN employs military-grade encryption and supports split tunneling, network lock kill switch, and DNS leak protection.
- Surfshark – Surfshark offers an automatic kill switch, double encryption, and auto block ads and malware. Also, they also support a little-known protocol named Shadowsocks, which can be very helpful for users in mainland China to work their way past the Great Firewall.
3. Speed and Stability
Here's the first thing you need to realize before signing up with any VPN service provider; your Internet speeds will take a hit. There is no way around it; that's simply how the technology works – for now.
However, a VPN with many servers spread over a good number of locations worldwide will allow you to mitigate speed deficiencies somewhat. Take, for example, a provider such as NordVPN versus iPredator. Nord has thousands of servers covering a wide area. iPredator has a handful in one country alone (Sweden).
No matter how great iPredator's servers are, if your actual location is far from Sweden, it is likely that your Internet speeds will suffer when connected to it. At the very least, your connection latency will increase. As a rule of thumb, the further away your location from the VPN server, the more your speeds will be affected and the higher your latency.
The hardware you are running the VPN service on also needs significant processing power, as VPN encryption is CPU-intensive. For example, if you were to run the VPN on a router versus on a computer, you would get much faster speeds on the computer.
Keep in mind that many different things work together to affect overall Internet speed – it's not always the VPN service provider's fault if your speed drops!
* Updates: We have developed a script and auto-run consistent VPN speed tests for major VPN brands – check out our test results here (new window, direct to hideandseek.online).
Recommended VPN for best speed:
- ExpressVPN – Hosting more than 3,000 servers across 94 countries around the globe, its extensive network offers users from almost any country amazingly fast access points.
4. Location Spoofing
Remember that it's not always about speed but availability. If you want to stream Netflix US content, for example, you will want a VPN with servers in that country. For those who want to run the BBC's iPlayer you will need access to a UK server.
If you're in a country that censors the Internet heavily or are traveling to one, such as China, make sure you choose a VPN service that is good at getting around blocks. It is challenging in China since almost everything online is censored, and all VPN services except state-run or approved ones are banned.
To overcome this, some VPN companies use server obfuscation to help bypass internet restrictions such as network firewalls. This ensures that your VPN works in those countries with strong censorship.
Recommended VPN for widest location choices
- NordVPN – With more than 5,000 servers in 58 countries, NordVPN works in places where internet access is restricted and strong censorship is in place including China and the Middle East region.
5. P2P & Torrenting Support
File sharing is often bandwidth-intensive, but P2P users in some countries need VPN services. In these cases, specialists such as TorGuard cater to them. Others, such as NordVPN, limit P2P users to specific servers.
I have found that, for the most part, many VPNs are pretty good about P2P usage nowadays. So far, only one provider I have tried has been extremely strict about P2P use, cutting torrent speeds down to zero if you don't use their file-sharing approved server.
*Caution: Some VPN service providers do not allow P2P usage; check before buying into one if this is what you need.
P2P friendly VPN services
- TorGuard – Best speed logs, great value, and get around torrent throttling by most ISPs.
6. Customer Service
As with any industry, the VPN community has top dogs and low dogs in customer service. I'm not going to name who they are here, but rest assured I'll call them out on this in individual VPN reviews.
One thing I need to stress is that for a service that is as technical as a VPN, there is absolutely no excuse for a company that specializes in it not to offer good customer support. It is necessary.
If you're signing up for a VPN service, make sure you go through some reviews to see how they do in customer support.
That some rely on a ticketing system is bad enough, but they may simply take ages to respond. Can you imagine sitting at home and getting increasingly frustrated as each email comes back to you after a day or two – remember, you are paying for the privilege of using their service.
FAQs on VPN Services and Technology
Our reviews have found that NordVPN is the best choice among VPNs. It gives users a potent mix of features and reasonable pricing, and the company continually upgrades its services. You can also sign up for more security features with a plan upgrade.
Most free VPNs aren't a good choice. Look for one that offers a freemium model and treat it like a trial. Otherwise, it's better to go with a reasonably-priced premium VPN like AtlasVPN or Surfshark.
It is always advisable to keep a VPN connection active. The digital world is increasingly dangerous. We're at risk not just from cybercriminals but from governments and even legitimate businesses who want our data.
Yes, VPNs do have monthly plans, but pricing on these is often expensive. Most will offer steep discounts on longer-term plans, making them much more affordable. NordVPN, for example, charges $11.99 for month-to-month users. Their 2-year plan drops that price to only $3.69/mo.
Compare VPN pricing and other features in this table.
Since VPNs are designed for security and privacy they may affect the speed potential of your Internet connection. Some other areas that might suffer include latency and application compatibility.